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  #1  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Did You Guys Actually Enjoy Central America ???

OK, bear with me on this one, because it's a bit of a rambling question that, I suspect, will only provide subjective answers...

Having come up from Ushuaia we now find ourselves in Ecuador with 2 months remaining before we have to be back at work. Our original plan was to head to New York and ship back to the UK from there (I will not sell the bike, despite the obvious cost saving). I figure 2 months to get from Ecuador to New York would mean going at a fairly good clip - possible, definitely, just not with a lot of time to spare.

Another traveler we met who was heading south suggested that we could fly the bike from Bogota to Miami, which would give us plenty of time to explore Ecuador and Colombia (two countries we really want to see) and then allow us time to explore the US a little more than we had originally planned and spend time in the National Parks, maybe even ride coast to coast, which would be cool.

For various reasons (most of which are probably unfounded!) my wife and I just aren't excited about riding through Central America. I would like to see parts of Mexico (Baja, Copper Canyon), but that's about it. I hate corruption, corrupt cops and shitty border crossings (a speeding ticket puts me in a foul mood for days!).

I'm not so ignorant or prejudiced that I can't appreciate that the central american countries must surely be wonderful and have wonderful people, but my concern is that due to time constraints we'd have to stick mostly to the PanAm and not be able to explore these countries and get a good appreciation of them, thereby balancing out the negative experience of the border and cop hassles that we would surely come across.

There's a part of me that says 'come on fella, it will be an experience to go through that part of the world', but there's another side that thinks 'why put yourself through the hassle - this is meant to be fun' (this is our honeymoon after all!).

I know going straight to America isn't exactly adventurous, especially considering the company I'm in here on the HUBB, but as a new rider riding two up on dirt roads, sand dunes, through rivers and landslides, I feel as if I've had a fair amount of adventure already, and I don't want to spoil a fantastic experience by rushing through a string of countries just to get home. Additionally, I don't anticipate ever being able to have the opportunity to ride coast to coast across America again in my lifetime, so this has a certain draw for me.

Thoughts very much appreciated from those that have been there and done it - if you had your time again would you rather spend it in Ecuador, Colombia and America, or was CA the highlight of your trip?
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  #2  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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I loved Mexico and Central America, and when I had to make a choice similar to yours on my return north, I Stahlratted the Gap and rode the rest of the way home. I've been on a bike to all but Belize at least twice, and I'm not sick of it yet. The corruption isn't really that bad (unless you're unlucky and/or practically beg for it, as many riders do), and you can also avoid the worst of it if you want.

On the other hand, I do seem to have a high tolerance for stuff that really irritates some folks, and I am often thoroughly amused by stuff which might make you crazy.

FWIW when weighing your options: You can ride Central America to the US border in two weeks moving steadily but not obsessively. Four weeks allows a fair bit of sightseeing, but you still need to keep thinking about your schedule. Add Colombia and Ecuador and you're more or less out of time.

But riding coast to coast, as you claim you'd like to do.....hmmmm. Starting from Miami? Don't forget you'll have to ride back again if leaving from New York. Don't forget it'll still be winter throughout much of the country, particularly in areas which are actually spectacularly beautiful and contain much of what's worth riding.....twice. You'll be limited to the southern tier, and even so you might get kind've chilly from time to time. April is probably a fine time to visit south of the Mason Dixon line, but in the mountains of the west plus anywhere north of, say, Kansas....not so good, sometimes. The last thing you want is to be a week from your departure date when you run into a blizzard in Wyoming; this has happened to me during May.

Just one more thought: if you're going to skip Central America, ship the bike and yourselves from Colombia to LA, not Miami, then ride across. If you've got an extra couple of weeks, go to Venezuela first or drop down to Copper Canyon from Arizona along the way. That way you'll see some of the American southwest during a good time of year, but still be able to shoot across to the east coast and up to New York without risking much more than cold, wind and rain enroute.

Hope that helps.

Mark
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  #3  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Wow, what a question.

I'm a yank who spent all of 2008 going from SF to Panama and back (RR linked in my sig). I've also been to Alaska and back. I can't judge relative to South America, but I can tell you this:

* Nothing ruins a trip like being in a hurry.

* While I really enjoyed Central America, there is not a single moment I've ever spent on a motorcycle that has come within 10% of the joy I have had riding in Mexico. That country is a motorcycle *paradise*, especially if you stay off the highways. The variety in peoples, cultures, geography, food, drink, architecture... beaches, deserts, jungles, mountains, cities... I really can't rave enough. And it's cheap.

My advice, if you have the $$: Cancel any other plans and fly straight to southern Mexico. Spend all two months there. Forget the US, by comparison it's BORING BORING BORING.

My further advice: Sell the house. Sell the car. Sell the kids. Find someone else. Forget it! I'm never coming back. Forget it!

Jeff
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  #4  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Thanks, Mark.
Helpful as always. I didn't know Bogota - LA was an option. That makes infinitely more sense. And yes, a coast to coast route would have to take in the southern states only during that time of year, so missing Yellowstone, but still getting to see zion, moab etc. Hell, we may even go to Disney Land

Panama to USA border possible in 2 weeks? That's food for thought.

Bugger. I hate indecision.
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  #5  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Jeff's right, of course: there's a half a lifetime of fine riding in Mexico.

Start talking to Mike at Casablanca Hostel in Cali now so that shipping doesn't eat up too much of your available time. Anything is possible: it just depends on the price and how much trouble it takes to make it happen.

But hey, you hate indecision and you hate corrupt cops: what's left?

Mark
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  #6  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Quote:
* While I really enjoyed Central America, there is not a single moment I've ever spent on a motorcycle that has come within 10% of the joy I have had riding in Mexico. That country is a motorcycle *paradise*, especially if you stay off the highways. The variety in peoples, cultures, geography, food, drink, architecture... beaches, deserts, jungles, mountains, cities... I really can't rave enough. And it's cheap.

My advice, if you have the $$: Cancel any other plans and fly straight to southern Mexico. Spend all two months there. Forget the US, by comparison it's BORING BORING BORING.

My further advice: Sell the house. Sell the car. Sell the kids. Find someone else. Forget it! I'm never coming back. Forget it!

Jeff
OK, I'm sold - I'm off to Mexico!
Time is the killer for me. I need to look at your (and others) blogs to see what people can achieve in a certain amount of time and whether it was enjoyable. Thanks for the response.

Sell the house? Two of the most evil words contained in the English language my friend: 'Negative' and 'Equity'. Nothing else to sell, except maybe the wife.....


Edit:

F*ck it. I'm gonna get me some mangoes.
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  #7  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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yes what a question indeed. One with no real wrong answer. Having just returned to the US from Honduras, I can say that CA and Mex are outstanding rides! Do not worry about what you hear on the news. I never had an issue of note. It depends, for me, what you are looking for. If it is 'riding', the US provides everything you can find anywhere in the world; huge paved highways, small winding roads through the mountains, offroad, mud, gravel, dunes, twisties, rain forests, high deserts, desert floors, huge cities, small towns, etc etc, I don't think there is anything you can't find here on a coast to coast. that being said, the US is a different culture than CA or Mex. But possibly after your first two months in SA it is time for a change anyway. A coast to coast ride across the US can be remarkable, however, a large part of the incredible, the OR and WA coast and mountain passes, the CO mountains, UT and its national parks, yellowstone, Beartooth pass, the Blackhills, the grand Canyon, glacier etc etc, out west may not be accessible at this time of year due to the weather. And in my opinion, having to ride from LA through AZ, and ugh(texas) is not anywhere near my top 20 ways across the country unless you just want to say you did it. So given the time of year, I say enjoy CA, and make sure you save at least a month to get a good feel Mexico, it is a lovely country, with outstanding riding and the people are wonderful.
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  #8  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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I'm going to break the trend here with my personal opinion.

I didn't like Central America, and we gave it a fair chance doing mixed back roads and Panam riding. To me when riding in CA I felt like I was in a broken loop: volcano, beach, colonial city, jungle, volcano, beach .... I was actually starting to get sick of our Latin America trip until we arrived in SA (Colombia) and it was like a breath of fresh air. I have enjoyed South America a million times more than CA and if I were to do this trip again I would ship myself and bike straight to SA.

That's my 2 cents.
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  #9  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Thumbs up What a Question...

Obviously everyone has their own likes and dislikes.
Personally I loved Central America and its diversities- each of those small countries has a very distinct character and Guatemala was my favourite, the colours and the ambience of the indigenous settlemenst and markets, Tikal - the Mayan ruins deep in the jungle are phenomenal.
The diving and snorkelling in Honduras, camping on the beach with the turtles surfing right in next to us in Nicaragua, Costa Rica with its amazing cloud forests, Panama and its bizarre contrasts.
If I was you, I wouldn't miss out on these countries to see the States but then I prefer less-developed countries. I'll quickly add that I've had a great time travelling in the States and Canada as well, but they are a different tarvelling experience.

The countries in Central America are changing all the time, if you want to see them how they are now and before further development then head that way.
Yes, there are sometimes delays at the borders, but if you turn up with the expectation it may take a while and be prepared for it (believe me there are far worse border crossings in the world), I usually find I get through a lot more quickly than I expect.
A couple of words of caution, keep your shipping as simple as possible, if you are now on a time limit and want to make the most of yoru time, use routes that others have used before you - otherwise you can get delayed (speaking from personal experience).
Also - Mexico, which I also like is actually quite a big country and can take longer to travel through than you expect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marinomi View Post
I'm going to break the trend here with my personal opinion.

I didn't like Central America, and we gave it a fair chance doing mixed back roads and Panam riding. To me when riding in CA I felt like I was in a broken loop: volcano, beach, colonial city, jungle, volcano, beach ....
That's my 2 cents.
Marinomi - "volcano, beach, colonial city, jungle, volcano, beach"
I'm not sure what exactly you were expecting in CA if not those things plus a hundred other things?
true there isn't the majesty and the heights of the Andes that you get in SA, but I found each CA country has a lot to offer and wouldn't choose to miss out this whole section of a continent.

make sure you let us know what choice you make Garmei? And how the trip goes. Whatever you choose, ride safe and have a great journey.
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  #10  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Just in case there's any confusion - Mexicanos are quick to point out that Mexico is part of North America, not Central America.
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Old 7 Feb 2011
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Thank you all for your informed comments. It certainly helps decision making and it's also a bloody interesting read! I'm curious, however, why people have exclaimed 'what a question!' Is this because it's a difficult one to answer, or is it just a no brainer for most people to go ride in this region? Don't be stupid man - go ride!' Anyways....

The responses here seem largely to reflect CA and Mexico in a positive light. The opinions of travelers we've meet who are heading south seem to be more divided on the subject. We're two up, and so this decision really has to be made by both of us and for ourselves, and I won't bore you with our internal dilemmas too much!. But your experiences help, so please keep 'em coming.

At the moment we're torn between flying to LA (which would allow us time to go into Mexico) or just staying in SA and having enough time explore all of Ecuador, Colombia and maybe Venezuela too.

Flying to LA may be prohibitively expensive. Hmmmm....
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  #12  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garmei View Post
OK, bear with me on this one, because it's a bit of a rambling question that, I suspect, will only provide subjective answers...

Having come up from Ushuaia we now find ourselves in Ecuador with 2 months remaining before we have to be back at work. Our original plan was to head to New York and ship back to the UK from there (I will not sell the bike, despite the obvious cost saving). I figure 2 months to get from Ecuador to New York would mean going at a fairly good clip - possible, definitely, just not with a lot of time to spare.

Another traveler we met who was heading south suggested that we could fly the bike from Bogota to Miami, which would give us plenty of time to explore Ecuador and Colombia (two countries we really want to see) and then allow us time to explore the US a little more than we had originally planned and spend time in the National Parks, maybe even ride coast to coast, which would be cool.

For various reasons (most of which are probably unfounded!) my wife and I just aren't excited about riding through Central America. I would like to see parts of Mexico (Baja, Copper Canyon), but that's about it. I hate corruption, corrupt cops and shitty border crossings (a speeding ticket puts me in a foul mood for days!).

I'm not so ignorant or prejudiced that I can't appreciate that the central american countries must surely be wonderful and have wonderful people, but my concern is that due to time constraints we'd have to stick mostly to the PanAm and not be able to explore these countries and get a good appreciation of them, thereby balancing out the negative experience of the border and cop hassles that we would surely come across.

There's a part of me that says 'come on fella, it will be an experience to go through that part of the world', but there's another side that thinks 'why put yourself through the hassle - this is meant to be fun' (this is our honeymoon after all!).

I know going straight to America isn't exactly adventurous, especially considering the company I'm in here on the HUBB, but as a new rider riding two up on dirt roads, sand dunes, through rivers and landslides, I feel as if I've had a fair amount of adventure already, and I don't want to spoil a fantastic experience by rushing through a string of countries just to get home. Additionally, I don't anticipate ever being able to have the opportunity to ride coast to coast across America again in my lifetime, so this has a certain draw for me.

Thoughts very much appreciated from those that have been there and done it - if you had your time again would you rather spend it in Ecuador, Colombia and America, or was CA the highlight of your trip?
In short, YES.

We took 3.5 months to get from Toronto to Panama, but could have sent longer.

My advice, fly to Panama City (quicker than boat), shoot through Panama and Costa Rica, then enjoy Nicurgua/A small bit of Honduras/ El Salvador.

Give Guatemala a bit of time, then get into Mexico.

Don't worry about tales of corrupt cops etc, we have had no issues. Just do not give them an excuse :-).

At borders, *DO NOT USE* Helper, it will cost you more in time and money.

Mexico rocks, loved it.

I disagree with the US being boring, but it i worth trip in it own right.
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  #13  
Old 7 Feb 2011
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Thoroughly enjoyed Central America and Mexico. My favourite countries were Nicaragua, Guatemala and southern Mexico. The only thing that really bugged me were the topes in Mexico. Trip report and pics: Round the World TBSdotCom

cheers
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Old 7 Feb 2011
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Originally Posted by garmei View Post
Thank you all for your informed comments. It certainly helps decision making and it's also a bloody interesting read! I'm curious, however, why people have exclaimed 'what a question!'
It's a dilema - you have enough time to have fun, but not enough time to really thoroughly explore.

Quote:
Originally Posted by garmei View Post
At the moment we're torn between flying to LA (which would allow us time to go into Mexico) or just staying in SA and having enough time explore all of Ecuador, Colombia and maybe Venezuela too.
Ah... if you don't *need* to get to NY, I'd have to honestly say - stay in SA and spend your two months exploring. I've heard wonderful things about Ecuador and especially Columbia.

I prefer depth rather than breadth (which is why I never made it south of the Darien), and two months sounds about right for three countries - especially two-up (on a 950?).

Put it this way... you're going to add a considerable amount of expense, frustration, and delay by adding an extra flight (either across the gap or farther north). Then you'll be on a schedule to get to your final destination - maybe not in a huge hurry (depending on what's left of your two months after shipping), but the limit will force you to skip places you might otherwise have chosen to go.

Save the US, Mexico, & Central America for next year. But seriously - come back, because you really will be missing out.

Jeff

P.S. If you're on a 950 you can ignore the topes
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Old 7 Feb 2011
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Originally Posted by stickfigure View Post

P.S. If you're on a 950 you can ignore the topes
I thought they were jumps! Are they meant to slow you down ?

Thanks mate, excellent advice
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